The Apple AirPods won’t succeed

Apple AirPods are the price Apple pays for innovation.

Apple AirPods
The New Apple AirPods

The problem is that I don’t want to pay that $159 price for the new Apple AirPods.

I am a died in the wool Apple guy, as you know. I write this blog on my MacBook Air, have an iPhone 6+, two iPads (including the iPad Pro), an iPod in my car and an Apple TV connected to all the TVs in my home. Even at Stealing Share, we are Apple folks with an Apple server and Airport Wireless.

But I do have a simple complaint. Apple focuses on great design. But often, that design is more about how things look as opposed to how they work.

Apple Airpods
The Old Bluetooth Earpiece

I remember when I bough my first iPhone nine years ago and also paid for the Bluetooth headphone (not anything like the Apple AirPods). It was very cool looking and was tiny compared to competitive products. But syncing it to the phone and keeping it charged turned out to be a nightmare. I have never bought another Bluetooth product from Apple.

I won’t buy the new Apple AirPods either. Once again, they look very cool and are tiny compared to the competitor’s products. But they suffer from the same flaw as that earpiece I bought almost a decade ago. They simply won’t stayed charged long enough for me to use them.

Bluetooth headphones are common today

I travel a great deal and always take Bluetooth headphones with me. They are large, bulky and cumbersome but… they are noise cancelling and seem to last for days. Apple claims its new Apple AirPods will last for four hours between charges. That means they won’t even last a single cross country flight. They are worthless to me.

Apple AirPods
Apple packages everything with style

Apple AirPods look great

Great design says that form follows function and Apple often forgets this. I want them to be tiny, cool and simple. But I demand that they function in a way that matters to me. These have pushed the limit on smallness and Bluetooth compatibility but the technological limitations of having a powerful enough battery in such a small design is not there yet. So I’m not there yet either.

Apple eliminating the earphone jack on the new iPhone seems as overdue to me as when the original iMac eliminated the floppy disk drive and the MacBook eliminated the CD drive. I don’t need to connect a wire to my phone. But I NEED the device I use for sound and talking to last me a full day. Apple needs to be as concerned about how well something works as much as it is obsessed with how it looks.

So the Apple AirPods won’t find their way into my briefcase. Its too bad really. I would prefer to buy more Apple products but sometimes they leave me in the cold.

Apple Sirius XM would be a bad fit

The battle over market share in the automobile industry will be fought over technology, according to a study by Nielsen. With that in mind, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said an Apple Sirius XM acquisition would make sense so Apple can own more space in auto technology.

For the first point, consumers are already expecting a greater level of technology in their cars. Most of us have become accustomed to using Bluetooth to play music and podcasts from our phones through the auto’s stereo system. And GPS is now simply a table stake. It’s what you have to have to even be a car manufacturer.

But the stakes are getting higher because the differences between automobiles are small. They all last longer, get better gas mileage and have similar designs.

Now, though, the new expectation is that all cars will have rear camera mirrors, smartphone-linked media functionality, blind spot detection, surround view cameras and smartphone-navigation interfaces. If they don’t have those things, then you can’t be manufacturing cars.

That doesn’t even take into account the coming of driverless cars. Like most of our devices, we’re expecting our cars to be smart, just like our phones and, for some of us, our homes.

Apple Sirius XM would not fix Apple’s issues.

That’s why Cramer is proposing the Apple Sirius XM acquisition. Apple is reported to be working on a car itself. Even if that doesn’t happen (and I have my doubts), Apple wants to be more important inside the car than it is now. Just like any technology company.

Apple Sirius XM
Apple doesn’t need Sirius XM.

But Apple Sirius XM is a bad fit. While Sirius XM is adding subscribers, it doesn’t fit within Apple’s brand. Apple doesn’t have permission to own Sirius XM. Actually, more accurately, Sirius XM doesn’t fit into Apple’s brand of “Think Different.” Sirius XM is radio and, while that has value, it does not represent the true innovation that has made the Apple brand.

Admittedly, Apple has lost its way a bit in fulfilling its brand promise. The brand that Steve Jobs built set very high expectations that Apple hasn’t met recently. It just keeps trotting out new versions of the products it already has, while purchasing Beats in an attempt to goose Apple Music. What would it need Sirius XM for?

If I were Apple, I’d concentrate on new products, not just acquiring new properties in the hope that they will help. Any new innovation must come from Apple. Because the reason people buy Apple products and stand in line for the first run of them is because of the brand.

If the new product or service does not represent “Think Different,” than Apple shouldn’t do it. And Sirius XM is not different.

Don’t have time to read? Try Audible.

I don’t mean for this to sound like an advertisement. But I’ll tell ya, this might sound pretty close. I suppose when you are in love with something, you want to let it be known. It’s a pleasure to share it with everyone else.

My latest pleasure is Audible.

Audible
Audible is a way to devour books if reading time is limited.

You see, I live a really busy life. In that hubbub, I’ve lost time indulging in my favorite pastime of all — reading books. As a young guy, you would never find me without a copy of something by my side. But as life progressed and my table has become more and more full, the chance for those relaxing moments happens less often.

But since I’ve been using Audible, I’ve listened to six books in two months. I just re-read Dune, listened to John Krakauer’s Missoula and I have intentions on finally listening to The Alchemist.

Audible (now owned by Amazon) is a brand that fulfills a unique need that few others have. Without much competition, save for OverDrive (a public library-based audiobook and eBook site), Audible has a need-based position locked up. (In addition, most of the audiobooks on iTunes are from Audible.)

Audible is unique, need-fulfilling brand. 

The great French general Napoleon based many of his strategies on the beliefs of human tendencies. To paraphrase within the context of branding, with careful planning and insight, you may in fact find an ally and advantage in the market leader. Brand messaging is often overlooked. Napoleon taught us that our advantage often lies in an understanding of human nature.

Audible understands human beings like me by aligning itself with a belief that learning is still important – even if we don’t have time for it. May I add, it helps that most of the books are read by actors too. (Others are sometimes read by the authors themselves.) That takes the already high level of enjoyment up a few more notches.

But enough of my yapping. I need to get back to listening.

Changing brands in today’s fast-moving environment

Embracing brand in an environment of change

The world is changing rapidly and with it so are the tastes and preferences of consumers. New products, brands and technologies are creating entirely new demands from consumers. New wants and needs emerge while others wane. Everything from Brexit to the eminent failure of the Airbus A380 to the global Pokemon Go craze demonstrates just how malleable the preferences of consumers of all stripes really are.

Taco Bell now serves breakfast and McDonalds serves breakfast all day. One can go into the store and buy hard cider, hard lemonade, hard root beer and hard cream soda. Some cars now drive for us, refrigerators take pictures of their contents and your bed tells you how well you slept the night before. Consumers today thrive on the newest and latest, and enjoy inundating themselves in noise under the guise of making things easier. The only constant is change.

Changing brands
Changing brands is a difficult proposition.

As the pace of change continues to hasten, what are companies to do? Should they be as malleable as the preferences of consumers? Should they be changing brands?

To properly answer that question, we have to once again remind ourselves of the difference between a company’s businesses and its brand. The business piece is easy. It’s what you do. In short, it’s the services you provide or the products you sell. Nike’s business is to sell athletic apparel and GEICO sells insurance.

Changing brands, the decision

Changing brands is a little more difficult. For some companies, brand is simply a logo. For the smarter company, it is the amalgamation of everything, including all operations. But that’s only part of the equation.

When brand is executed as it should it should be, the totality of everything an organization does comes in to play. This goes from R&D to customer service to sales and marketing to HR and everything in between. Understanding this is key to succeeding in an era of change, not just riding out the storm.

Brands too often today are responding to the nearly overwhelming changes in the market by drifting, often too far, from what has made them successful. We call this brand drift and, in a business environment where change is the rule of the day, it can be the wrong thing to do. Let the business adapt, innovate and change as market conditions demand organically.

This is not to say that good brands should avoid investing in monitoring their brand equities. Far from it. Brands should constantly be making sure, especially in times of great change, that their brands continue to be influential and resonate. Because in these times, consumers seek safe harbors. That is true of all human beings.

At Stealing Share, we create brands derived out of the beliefs and aspirations of your target customer, making it truly is a reflection of who your current and prospective customers are or aspire to be. If your brand does not truly do that, then changing brands is needed.

In this rapidly changing business environment, if you continue to do the good work of making sure your business has adapted to changing market forces, then we can help you create or modify your brand so that, no matter how much tastes change, your customers and prospects will remain true to your brand.

Verizon’s purchase of Yahoo makes little sense

My first question upon hearing that Verizon is paying $4.8 billion to buy Yahoo was: Why would Verizon do that?

Yahoo has been a declining brand for some years. In the 90s, it was the search engine and counted millions among those who had an email address with the tech company. It won its battle with AOL and its future was bright.

Yahoo
The price may be cheap, but I don’t know what Verizon is getting from Yahoo.

But Yahoo never evolved after Google entered the market and took over so overwhelmingly that google is now a verb.

A better way to judge Yahoo’s downfall is to remember that Microsoft was willing to pay $45 billion for it just nine years ago. The $4.8 billion Verizon just ponied up is chicken feed in comparison.

The strategic purpose of buying Yahoo

Verizon’s overall strategy is to become a larger technology and media company rather than just a mobile carrier. It wants to count Google, Time Warner and Amazon as its competitors. Its recent purchases of AOL and the Huffington Post prove that. But it has an overall strategy that has yet to come to true fruition.

So why Yahoo? I suppose Verizon wants access to its one billion users. But AOL once boasted of those kinds of numbers. As we learned, those AOL customers were basically empty ones as they sported AOL email addresses they never used. Yahoo did buy Tumblr and brought in Katie Couric to be some sort of news anchor, for what it’s worth.

But it has been a brand without purpose. All that mishmash of what it had didn’t add up to a satisfying whole. It was a collection of disconnected parts.

Part of the reason why I wonder why Verizon would buy Yahoo is that, so far, Verizon’s collection also seems jumbled. What is Verizon going to become?

I suppose we should let this play out and see what Verizon will emerge as. But it worries me when companies grow through acquisition and not organically.

Verizon needs to come up with a brand promise that unites all its offerings. That was the problem Yahoo always had. No one could state what how its users were different than any other kind of user. It had no unifying brand.

If Verizon wants to make some sense of what it will become, then it needs to re-examine its brand. Because, right now, it doesn’t have one that will impact the market the way it should and buying companies like Yahoo don’t fix the problem.